Archive For The “Destinations” Category

Saimaa Canal

Saimaa Canal

The Saimaa Canal, connecting Lake Saimaa to the Baltic Sea, has long been an important commercial transportation route. The canal was completed in 1856 while Finland was a Duchy in the Russian Empire and was wholly within Finland after the country became independent in 1917. As part of the reparations for World War II, Finland…

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Dirona In Russia

Dirona In Russia

We’ve been to a lot of places over the years and seen many countries, but taking Dirona through Russia was never on our list of expected or planned trips. When we learned about Finland’s Saimaa Lake region, however, we had to go. The Great Saimaa lake system is 1,690 sq mi (4,377 sq km) and…

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Helsinki Marina

Helsinki Marina

Helsinki Marina was an excellent home base for us for two weeks while we explored the city. The marina is right downtown, and within walking distance of many restaurants, bars and attractions. It also was a safe and secure place to leave the boat while we made a couple of longer trips to Tallin, Estonia…

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St. Petersburg Edifices

St. Petersburg Edifices

We spent our third and final day in St. Petersburg viewing some of the city’s most famous tsar-initiated edifices. We started with Peter & Paul fortress, where in 1703 Peter the Great founded his new Baltic port city, and toured two spectacular churches: Church on the Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. We also viewed…

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Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site 18 miles (29km) southwest of St. Petersburg, Russia. In the early 18th century, Peter the Great stayed in a small cabin in the area while overseeing the construction of the offshore fortress Kronshtadt. He liked it so much that he later built a small villa here, and…

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The Hermitage

The Hermitage

The vast Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russa contains one of the world’s greatest art collections. The main complex comprises five separate buildings, including the opulent 18th-century Winter Palace, with a total of 360 rooms. Even without the artwork, touring the spectacular Winter Palace is worth the price of admission. After taking a shuttle bus…

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Princess Anastasia to St. Petersburg

Princess Anastasia to St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg was high on our list of destinations, but visiting in Dirona would require obtaining Russian visas, not to mention the challenges of bringing the boat into Russia. Special rules for cruise ships and certain passenger ferries, however, allow visa-free stays for up to 72 hours. So we booked a trip from Helsinki on…

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Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna sea fortress was built on an island group outside Helsinki in the 18th century to protect Swedish-held Finland from a Russian attack. Today much of the fort is open to the public and is a popular day-trip from Helsinki. Besides the extensive fort ruins to explore, the island also is a prime viewing location…

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Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was a German-dominated Hanseatic League port starting in the early 13th century and has a marvellously preserved Old Town, one of the best in Europe. The city also has an excellent maritime museum, a TV tower with great views and a wonderfully restored 18th-century Russian palace and grounds. And Tallinn…

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Katajanokka Island

Katajanokka Island

Katajanokka Island is home to Helsinki Marina, where Dirona berthed for two weeks, and to several large commercial docks, including the Icebreaker Base and the terminal for Viking Line ferries. The island also has some beautiful Art Nouveau buildings and a wonderful modern construct, the Allas Sea Pool, with terraced decks overlooking the harbour. On…

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Helsinki City Walk

Helsinki City Walk

Helsinki is a city of striking architecture, both modern and traditional, including Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Modernist. The city also is full of sculptures and other works of art. As is normally our custom when arriving in a new city, we went on an extensive walking tour, this one a 10-mile Lonely Planet-inspired Helsinki “Iconic…

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Helsinki Arrival

Helsinki Arrival

From Oro we made a two-day run to Helsinki, where we would stay right downtown for two weeks to explore the city and make trips to Tallin and St. Petersburg. We had wonderfully calm conditions for the entire run, enabling us to check out a couple of offshore lighthouses. We also passed a large fleet…

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Oro

Oro

Oro has been a restricted-access military base since the early 1900s, when Russia built a fortress here, and has only recently been opened to the public as part of Finland’s Archipelago National Park. After a century of military activity, the island is full of fortifications and ruins, most open and publicly accessible. And the park…

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Kokar

Kokar

In 1965, baron Goran Akerhielm purchased land on Kallskar, a small island on the edge of the Baltic Sea in the Kokar island group at the southwest extreme of the Aland Archipelago. There he spent 18 years building extensive gardens and a villa where he lived spring through fall until 1983. He later donated the…

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Kumlinge

Kumlinge

Kumlinge is a group of about 800 islands in the northeastern Aland archipelago. Besides the complexity of islands to explore, a major attraction for us was an old Finnish coast guard station, now converted to a resort and marina, with a 130ft (40m) observation tower that provides sweeping views over the area. Below are trip…

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Bomarsund

Bomarsund

The Russians began building Bomarsund Fortress in 1830 as a western outpost when Aland and mainland Finland were part of the Russian Empire. The overall plan was for a massive fortified circle almost 3/4 mile (1.1 km) in diameter and extending north-to-south nearly two miles (3km) and designed to house 4,000-5,000 men. The fortress was…

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